Hiking the Haute Route Pyrenees

The Haute Route Pyrenees (HRP) is a high level route that follows the precipitous waistline between France and Spain in Europe. Originally devised by a french teacher called George Veron, it uses parts of existing Grand Randonee routes 10 and 11, shepherd tracks and off trail sections to stay high on the border ridge. It’s around 500 miles long and includes around 28 miles of ascent. The route takes you from sea level to about 10,000 ft.

I walked the Haute Route Pyrenees in 2011, and with a detour into a Spanish gorge system, we took 2 months from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean sea. Many people do it in around 6 weeks (the hiking season is July-September), but I preferred to include summits on the way, and logistics were made more complex by walking with friends, who joined for different stages on the way. Together with my friends, we raised about £4,000 for 2 charities.

Reasons to Hike the Haute Route Pyrenees (HRP)

  • It crosses an incredible variety of terrain, from the baked green hills of the western basque region, through granite, ice and talus, to the fiery red rock of Catalonia and scrubby coastline of the Mediterranean. You may be dog tired, thirsty and hungry, but you will not be bored.
  • It is possible to do in sections, especially the 1st, 2nd and 5th stages, if your vacation time is limited.
  • Because of the trip can be scaled, to enjoy some of Paris or Barcelona, as well as the mountains.
  • However, as a through hike, it is a serious challenge. It is not long compared to many US routes, but resupply is between 5-10 days at a time, and the terrain, especially in the central section, is often off-trail, not way-marked and includes 1 or 2 glacial sections as well as numerous boulder fields. Ascent is usually at least 3000 ft. per day and repays a lightweight approach. Trails are not ‘groomed’ and hikers can enjoy a growing feeling of remote wilderness after a few weeks on route.
  • Camping is beautiful, easy and plentiful, often possible near lakes, and not restricted. You may camp where you like along the route, as long as you follow the usual ‘leave no trace’ principles. No permits required.
  • Clean water means purification is only necessary occasionally. Tablets will do, filter pumps etc can be left behind.
  • No bear canister required. Most apex predators have unfortunately been hunted to extinction, but plenty of deer, marmots, birds of prey and wild flowers.
  • A reasonably friendly mountain climate. Usually, long periods of clear weather followed by mountain storms, temperature ranging from approx 30 to 95 F.
  • It’s fantastically beautiful, peaceful and mostly unspoiled by development above the treeline. Occasional ski resort and quarrying on the Spanish side, but no plantations and long periods where it is possible to walk alone. The HRP is higher and more difficult, and so much less popular than either the GR10 (France) or GR11 (Spain).

For free information about the Haute Route Pyrenees, including the audio diary of David’s 2009 walk, blogs and videos, suggested gear, and David’s excellent guide book amendements, see http://www.selfpowered.net/p/hrp.html.

This post was written by Trail Ambassador David Lintern. You can read more about his adventures on his blog Self Powered.

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6 Responses to Hiking the Haute Route Pyrenees

  1. Borelli Stéphane June 28, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    I’ve been there! Splendid mountains.
    Your report is Wonderful!!!

  2. Mike Henderson June 28, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your hike. I want to paraglide these mountains, but now I want to thru-hike them as well.

  3. Glen Van Peski June 28, 2013 at 10:25 pm #

    Wow, great photos, can’t wait to do some of these treks! Thanks for giving us a taste to whet our appetites!

  4. Glen Van Peski June 28, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    Lint – forgot to ask, which two charities did you raise money for?

  5. Mike Conlon July 2, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    I did about 100 miles of the GR11 ten years ago and your article reminded me of what a great trip I had. The people, when you do see them, are friendly and helpful and the food good. I did find that many people thought I was in Spain to hike El Camino de Santiago – I guess that is the most famous hike in Spain, especially after the movie “The Way” was released in 2010.

  6. david lintern July 12, 2013 at 6:15 am #

    Thanks folks,

    Glen, the 2 charities were:

    http://www.soundmix.org.uk/
    and
    http://www.jmt.org/

    supporting music education and environmental conservation.

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